For those of you who somehow forgot, today’s a special day: the first birthday of the “Occupy movement.”
The Occupiers celebrated the big day by staging some protests in lower Manhattan. About a thousand protesters gathered and tried to block access to the New York Stock Exchange and various office buildings, and about 150 were arrested for disturbing the peace. The stock market and other capitalistic activities went on undeterred, but one Occupier was enthusiastic about the turnout. “It is encouraging getting 1,000 people out to do anything,’’ he said.
It’s hard to believe that the “Occupy movement” started only a year ago. For a time the media and some politicians acted like the “Occupy movement” was going to be the next big wave, and there was a seeming obsession with breathless reporting about how the Zuccotti Park protestors engaged in self-government, used the “human megaphone,” and had drummers pounding away day and night. It seems like ancient history now, doesn’t it? What was supposed to be the next big thing now can only command a thousand protestors to commemorate a big day for the “movement” — and you’d be hard pressed to identify anything that was truly accomplished as a result of the urban encampments and drumming.
There may still be “Occupy” activities going on somewhere in Columbus, but if so I haven’t seen or heard of them. On its first birthday, it seems like there’s not much movement in that “movement.”
Yesterday was a beautiful, spring-like day, so after lunch The Bus-Riding Conservative and I decided to take an extended walk. To our surprise, when we walked past the Ohio Statehouse we learned that “Occupy Columbus” is still there.
The “Occupiers” have a large white party tent, carefully taped to keep out the weather. On the front is a big sign advertising their website, as well as an ersatz American flag in which the fifty stars have been cleverly replaced with corporate logos like McDonald’s and Chevron. (Does that mean that corporations are taking the place of the fifty states, or that corporations are the true stars of the country? The message could be misconstrued.) I tried to check out the “Occupy Columbus” website shown on the large sign, but when I did Firefox sent me a warning saying that the website connection was untrusted and that I would be proceeding at my peril — so I decided the prudent course was to not satisfy my curiosity.
There were two people sitting behind the tents, enjoying the lovely weather. Other than that, there seemed to be nobody there, and there was no other activity to be seen. In short, “Occupy Columbus” is still there, occupying their little patch of Statehouse Square, but that appears to be about it.
This morning I walked over to the Statehouse to check out the “Occupy” protest, Columbus version. It’s changed a little since my first visit. Big doings were planned today for the Occupy Wall Street folks in NYC, so I thought the Columbus chapter might also be kicking into gear. That turned out not to be the case.
As the photo I took indicates, the Columbus encampment is small and shabby — a few tents, a few wooden pallets, a cooler or two, a few garbage cans, and some stray signage fastened to steel fencing on the sidewalk in front of the Ohio Statehouse. At least one of the tents was occupied, but no one was out chanting or doing anything else. It was cold, so maybe the Occupy protesters decided that tapping on their laptop keyboards inside the tents was the smarter course. The people waiting at the nearby bus stop, who far outnumbered anybody huddled in the tents, were trying to stay warm in a brisk wind and weren’t paying much attention to the Occupy folks, anyway.
The whole point of the Occupy protests still seems pretty obscure to me. The signage at the Columbus camp didn’t provide much clarification, either. Here were the signs that were visible this morning: “The finest democracy money can buy,” “Monopolies kill off competition,” “Kill your TV and Do Your Research,” “Integrate the Federal Reserve,” and “Commercialized Culture TV, Radio, Music, Art, Religion.” Is there a common, articulable theme in those signs, other than reflexive opposition to whatever might attract their attention?
We were down in the Short North last night for dinner with friends, and the place was hopping.
Okay, that’s a bad pun. We had forgotten that it was a Gallery Hop night. On the first Saturday of each month, the Short North galleries are open late and all of Columbus seemingly descends on the area. Last night, there was a big turnout, where the Gallery Hoppers mixed with the scarlet-emblazoned post-Ohio State home game crowd and even a small but vocal “Occupy” protest.
I don’t know if the Occupiers were there to protest the rampant — and encouraging — capitalism on display in this area of restaurants, bars, shops, and galleries, or whether they were just there because they knew they would have an audience. I particularly liked one sign carried by a protester: “4.00 GPA and employed! I’m doing this for you!” I guess we should all be grateful for the efforts of that self-aggrandizing yet altruistic protester.
Our dinner guests were from out of town, and I know they liked the bustle of the Short North. For visitors who think of Columbus as a boring, white bread town, the Short North is an eye-opener that really helps to show the cultural diversity Columbus has to offer.
Today the “Occupy Wall Street” group held a protest in downtown Columbus at noon today. The protest was mentioned on NPR this morning, so I walked over to check it out over the noon hour. It was, to say the least, underwhelming.
I would estimate that about 20 protesters were there — and with the mention of the protest on NPR and the many college students and political types in town, I was expecting a much larger number. The skimpy turnout was only a tiny fraction of the huge crowds that showed up for the Senate Bill 5 protests at the Statehouse earlier this year. Then, the protesters filled pretty much every square foot of the Statehouse lawn and surrounding walkways. Today’s little band, in contrast, was huddled on the sidewalk in front of the McKinley statute facing High Street. Their numbers were so small that you could easily walk past them on the sidewalk.
The protesters were a motley group, with no apparent theme. Among the signs I saw were one supporting prisoner’s rights, another opposing Issue 2, one simply reading “Glass-Steagall,” and another handwritten sign purporting to be a quote from Andrew Jackson. There also was a sign opposing corporate greed, one that was anti-yuppie, one that advocated taxing the rich and ending “their war,” and another that blamed Goldman Sachs. There were no chants, or drums, or much of anything in the way of noise. If it weren’t for the fact that two police cruisers and uniformed officers were present, you wouldn’t have even known a protest was going on.
According to the news media, the “Occupy Wall Street” protests are growing and spreading to other cities. In Columbus, however, not so much.